How to Sift through Headlines & Tweets the Week of the NFL Draft (Fantasy Football)

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You are now up to your eyeballs in mock drafts.

And as your friend, this is your intervention: enough is enough.

You are currently experiencing information overload and “paralysis of analysis”. The convictions you think you’ve acquired over the last few months about the NFL Draft are actually just a hodgepodge of groupthink, podcasts, and tweets jumbled together in your brain and now with a couple of days to go, you are settling in and just hoping this draft finally happens.

Before you think I’m going down a gloom-and-doom road of pure nihilistic intentions, instead this is a chance to work through some of the common phrases you’ll see this week with the media. Heck, your Twitter timeline is probably filled with at least 5-or-6 of these as you scroll today. Here are some of the common headlines & tweets and how to decipher what actually matters.

Editor’s Note: For more on the NFL Draft, check out over 40 full Rookie Profiles and the exclusive Dynasty Pass content found in the Ultimate Draft Kit+.

“This team likes this player…”

Imagine that. An NFL team likes a player with an early 1st round grade. Who wouldn’t want Kayvon Thibodeaux?

But what incentive does an NFL team have to leak out this type of information? Perhaps even more important, in perhaps the most non-consensus NFL draft we’ve seen in the modern era, how would you know if that player was even available when you’re on the clock?

The Vikings were a popular spot for LSU CB Derek Stingley Jr. at 12th overall. It made sense: Minnesota needed secondary help, everyone and their mama agreed that his “2019 tape” was elite, and he slipped in the draft because we all concluded, “he was coming off a less productive season”. Heck, when Betz and I did our NFL Draft Mock recently on the Fantasy Footballers DFS Podcast, that is where I had him pegged. As recent as yesterday, ESPN had him going to the Vikings in both Todd McShay & Mel Kiper Jr.’s mock drafts.

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Well, I hate to break it to you Vikings fans, but it ain’t happening. His draft position line was 12.5 two weeks ago on DK Sportsbook. It’s now 9.5. He’s moved from +350 on Sunday to +200 to be taken within the top 5 picks. Minnesota may have liked Stingley, but information coming out

Take for instance the burning inferno recently for Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson. What incentive do the Jets have in declaring this information now a couple of days ahead of the draft?

There are only a few legitimate conclusions you could make about a team publicly sharing information about liking a player:

  • It’s Smoke– Misdirection is a valuable technique if a GM is trying to get someone off or on the trail of a player.
  • It’s Media Click Bait– Hey, this is draft season. If ever there was a time for someone’s eyeballs to be on your work, it’s now. Beat reporters are paid to share their thoughts and opinions. Some are great at their job. Some are transparent. Some are just downright scoundrels.
  • It’s Insanity– Although we’d like to think NFL teams think rationally, it does not always happen (see: the Jacksonville Jaguars and years of futility)

“This team needs this position…”

We all love playing pretend GM which is the beauty and glory of fantasy football: it’s just plain fun. We like to evaluate our team’s strengths and weaknesses and forecast what players could help fill voids on the team. As a weathered Falcons fan, there are a lot of holes for a team looking like a cellar-dweller for the next few years.

But needs are relative when roster construction is at the forefront of many GMs’ minds. There is a dance between their salary cap, their current roster, the landscape of that position in the NFL, and free agency.

Just to give you some examples, here were a couple of teams in the 1st round last year that had glaring needs and some major media members who hammered home this idea into the heads of everyone trying to piece together the Round 1 puzzle… including me!

Cincinnati Bengals– 5th overall

  • The Glaring Need: Offensive line help
  • The Quote: “Lord I hope the Cincy doesn’t draft Ja’Marr Chase to reunite him with Joe Burrow. I’ve got a mortgage, two kids under 4 and work 6 days a week. I don’t need the stress of being a Bengals fan in my life. Draft a damn OT and let me live my life.” –Peter Burns (ESPN)
  • The Pick: WR Ja’Marr Chase. I guess he did ok as a rookie…

Detroit Lions– 7th overall

  • The Glaring Need: WRs galore
  • The Quote: “The Lions at pick 7 are in a really good spot to draft for both major need and value if they go pass catcher. Any of Ja’Marr Chase, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle or Kyle Pitts (2 TE sets) would be home runs“. – Field Yates (ESPN) 
  • The Pick: OT Penei Sewell when he fell into their lap.

Dallas Cowboys– 10th overall

  • The Glaring Need: Defense… everywhere.
  • The Quote: “The Cowboys’ biggest needs are at cornerback, safety, defensive tackle, edge rusher, and linebacker. The Cowboys need to find insurance at the [LB] position. Is that expected to happen at Pick 10? Probably not. The third or fourth round seems more likely.” –Jon Machota (Athletic)
  • The Pick: Traded down with PHI and selected LB Micah Parsons, the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

This exercise strolling down memory lane isn’t a chance to dunk on anyone but rather reminds us that team needs that have been cemented into our brains aren’t necessarily how NFL teams decide to pick.

“Watch for this team to trade up…”

We all love a good trade-up. It means a team has a player on their board they are simply in love with and they’re willing to mortgage the future for a shot at a franchise-altering player. Often, it’s QBs but there is a massive difference between the Bears galaxy-braining themselves into taking Mitchell Trubisky 2nd overall and the Chiefs trading up in that same exact 2017 draft to 10th overall to get Patrick Mahomes.

But in mock drafts, they are highly unsuccessful. That actually might be too kind of a word. They are downright not happening… at all. I took a look back at last year’s final mock draft from three of the media members I respect the most and whom I personally use in my indexing for making NFL Draft prop bets.

  • Peter Schrager– 3 trades projected… none occurred.
  • Daniel Jeremiah– 2 trades projected… none occurred. The Giants trading back (albeit with the Patriots in DJ’s mock) was the only trade that correctly predicted a team actually trading.
  • Dane Brugler– 6 trades projected… none occurred.

Once again, I totally respect these men and when they put out a mock draft, I pay attention and adjust my process of NFL Draft prop betting and the awareness of where certain players have moved up and down the draft board.

Let’s clarify how many “trade-ups” there have been over the last three years this late in the process. Here are the 12 trades made in the 1st round on Thursday of the draft:

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Here’s what I do pay attention to: teams that consistently are mentioned as trade-back candidates.

This might be counter-intuitive but the trading partner that wants to move up can come honestly from anywhere. The draft day trades over the last three years reveal that mock drafts rarely take this into account.

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“This GM has never done this so it will not happen…”

There’s a first time for everything.

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Even for people like former Giants GM Dave Gettleman (it’s me DAVE!). Last year, there was an actual prop bet on DK Sportsbook that simply was a Yes/No of whether the Giants would make a Day 1 trade. (Ask Betz how that went for him.)

The Giants did trade back to 20 as the Bears sacrificed their 2022 1st round pick which ended up being 7th overall. While Gettleman was shown the door this off-season, he set up the Giants nicely with two picks in the top-7.

A team’s history of how they drafted is only part of the piece of the puzzle. This is a different era, with a different set of players, contracts, and how they will draft is not as binary as they did therefore they will.

Comments

Tom says:

yeah, agree to take pretty much everything said by “experts” pre-draft with a grain of salt. How the NFL teams ACTUALLY behave on draft weekend is what needs paid attention to. What I’m nervous about this year is all the “talk” about expecting an unprecedented amount of trades on Day 1. Which pretty much means we’ll end up having 1 boring trade, lol. Hope not, but that’s what I’m actually expecting after all the hype.

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